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Hiking The Upper Buffalo National River

Hiking in the upper Buffalo National River can be your Arkansas ‘Walk in the Woods.’ Whether its spring, summer, fall or winter, the adventurous trails along the upper Buffalo National River are perfect for hiking. It is especially beautiful this time of year with spring foliage blossoming everywhere you turn. Gorgeous vistas and plentiful waterfalls are all waiting to be enjoyed and photographed. This is a wonderful time to be in the woods with crystal clear skies and the blooming trees, creating magnificent vistas for as far as one can see. The upper Buffalo Region is one of the best places to see in the Ozarks. Just remember that April, May and June create spring rains and sometimes extremely high temperatures so plan ahead. Bring snacks and plenty of water on your hike.

Here are some of the best hikes. Many other trails exist and are too numerous to list all of them.

Hawksbill Crag or Whitaker Point Trail may just be the most recognized and photographed spot in the Buffalo National River area. Located south of Harrison, the Crag can be reached off Arkansas Highway 21, south of the communities of Ponca and Boxley. You’ll travel through the Boxley Valley and turn right onto Cave Mountain Road (gravel and dirt), heading straight up the mountain. The road is located just before you cross the Buffalo River on Highway 21. The trail was actually built and is maintained by the National Forest Service. The 3 mile roundtrip hike is fairly easy going in, but a bit harder coming out. Park in the lot at the start of the trail. Some of this is private property, so watch for the signs. This is a relatively easy hike as both older adults and young children always enjoy it throughout the year.

Lost Valley Trail is located just off Arkansas Highway 43 between the communities of Ponca and Boxley. Lost Valley was once an Arkansas State Park that was deeded over to the National Park Service shortly after the Buffalo River was designated America’s first national river in 1972. The trail is 2.3 miles round trip. This out and back trail begins at the campground where picnic and restroom facilities are available and progresses slightly uphill following Clark Creek on the right. The first part of the hike is on a wide, mostly open stretch that is deemed handicap accessible. When you get to the .7 mile mark, the trail will split. Follow the signs to take the trail to the right.

Further up the trail you will see what is typically called the “Jigsaw Blocks,” which is a series of boulders that look as if they fell from the bluff behind them. Continue up the trail where you will come to the lower section of Eden Falls and a huge natural shelter used in the past by Indians. Take the next two right forks until you get to a tall bluff and the entrance to Cobb Cave (approximately 1 mile). This is one of those unforgettable views along the trail. At the end of this stop is the beginning of Eden Falls, another of the great viewing places along the trail. If you are really adventurous, the creek flows out of a cave at the top of the ridge where you can go inside and view another small waterfall inside the cave. This is a really neat adventure but you will need a flashlight and it is somewhat challenging and not recommended for children or the elderly. Remember to take the right side forks as you return to the campground.  This trail is rated easy and great for children of all ages, except for the cave section. It is both handicap and stroller accessible for part of the way.

Ponds Loop Trail (.4 of a mile). The trail starts just across the road from the Cedar Grove picnic area on the Erbie Road offering a nice view of the river below.  Park in the lot as the trail begins there. To the left is a hard packed gravel trail that is accessible for both strollers and wheelchairs. Within a short distance, you will come to a nice observation deck overlooking the South Pond. From there the trail narrows (not accessible for either children’s strollers or wheelchairs) and heads up into the woods. Turn right when you get to the North Pond and hike back to the parking lot. Incidentally, the 37 mile Buffalo River Trail passes through the picnic area. Both ponds are clear and full of floral and other aquatic plants and animals.

The Buffalo River Trail on the upper stretches is divided into four parts.

South Boxley to Ponca (11 miles)
Ponca to Kyles Landing (passing Steel Creek campground) (9.9 miles)
Kyles to Erbie (7.5 miles)
Erbie to Pruitt (passing Ozark campground) (8.7 miles)

                                    Total 37.1 miles

Each of these hikes along the Buffalo River Trail offer something special. Whether its high vista-views of the river or mountains, old abandoned farmsteads, waterfalls or native wildlife, the trails are there for your enjoyment. The trails can be hiked all at once or singularly. There are entry and exit points on each of these trails. You will cross numerous creeks along this route. (Pay attention to the weather as these creeks can rise rapidly during heavy rain.) Camping is allowed along these trails. For more detailed information and maps of these hikes, contact the Buffalo National River headquarters in Harrison at 870-741-5443 or visit their web site at www.nps.gov.

Some of these hikes are not designed specifically for young hikers, but offer features suitable for others. However, many are excellent when introducing young people to the outdoors. For additional information on these or other trails along the upper Buffalo National River, contact the Harrison Convention and Visitors Bureau at 1-870-741-1789, toll free at 1-888-283-2163 or log on to web site www.harrisonarkansas.org.

FORT SMITH                                            

What to See & Do

Fort Smith For a Perfect Trip

If you want to be where the New South meets the Old West, plan a trip to Fort Smith -- famous for its hospitality, Blues, barbecue, Bach, broncos, belles and beautiful scenery. It's a city with a colorful and historic past which has grown into a meetinghouse for the past, present and future with its well-preserved frontier spirit. Arkansas's second-largest city, Fort Smith is located on the Arkansas-Oklahoma border and near the junction of Interstates 40 and 540. Named after General Thomas A. Smith, commander of all military forces west of the Mississippi River in 1817, the city's birth year, Fort Smith is nestled along the banks of the Arkansas River and at the foothills of the Ozark Mountains. While there, don't miss stopping in at "Miss Laura's." Once called the 'Riverfront Hotel" - just to be proper - this is the only former bordello listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Built just before 19090, it was once the most popular place on the city's bawdy Front Street along the Arkansas River. The "house," later renamed "Miss Laura's," has been magnificently restored in Victorian splendor. You won't see the original 'ladies,' but you will be treated royally. (Located at 2 North B Street.

Call 1-800-637-1477 for hours/admission.

Miss Laura's Players

After touring the house, check out Miss Laura's Players. Formed in early 1993, this talented local group presents an original musical comedy skit spoofing life in early Fort Smith during the time of "Hangin' Judge" Isaac Parker and "Miss Laura" herself. It's entitled "Medicine Show on Hanging Day," and the performers are dressed in colorful period costumes entertaining visitors in the dinner theater with a variety of songs, dances, and laughter. (Located at the above address.

For hours/admission, call 1-800-637-1477).

Belle Grove Historic District -

At the Belle Grove Historic District, a 22-square block area bounded by North 5h Street, North H Street, North 8th Street, and North C Street, this area is near the downtown and was added to the National Registry of Historic Places in the early 1970s. Since then at least 40 homes that span 130 years of varying architectural styles have been restored, with some open for tours.

Fort Smith National Historic Site

At the Fort Smith National Historic Site, you'll find two walk-in recreated frontier jails, and new displays and exhibits. The site also contains he remains of two military posts built to keep pace on the frontier when southeastern Indian Tribes were relocated to Indian Territory. The Visitor Center had served as the former barracks building for the second fort, built in the 1830s on the Belle Point area overlooking the Arkansas River. Later, the barracks housed the courtroom of the federal judge for the Western District of Arkansas. The courtroom has been completely restored, and visitors can walk around inside the early basement jail once considered so horrid it was called "Hell on the Border." Adjacent to the restored barracks building is the Commissary Building -- a major military supply center during the mid-1800s. Later, it was used as Judge Parker's chambers. During his 21-year tenure on the bench beginning in 1875, Parker was known as the "Hanging Judge." He presided over 13,000 cases and sentenced 160 men to hang. Of those, 79 died on the gallows which were capable of hanging more than six men at one time. (Located at Third Street at Rogers.

For information/hours, call 479-783-3961.

There are many more sites and attractions. Contact Fort Smith Convention & Visitors Bureau, 2 North B, Fort Smith, Arkansas 72901; 1-800-637-1477 for more information and free brochures.  

HOT SPRINGS

What to See & Do

The Arts and Historic District of downtown Hot Springs will celebrate 20 years of hosting monthly Gallery Walk receptions

Begun in August 1989, Hot Springs’ Gallery Walk has been a favorite community event, drawing residents and guests downtown the first Friday of each month to enjoy the opening receptions of new exhibits in the area galleries. Featured artists are also often present to discuss their work with guests during the openings.

Gallery features:

Taylor’s Contemporanea Fine Arts, located at 204 Exchange St., will present new works by Warren Criswell, Darrell Loy Scott, James Wu and Thomas Bitista. A special exhibit by John Robinette, a Tennessee artist, presenting his dramatic Delta Scenes, will be featured along with construction in miniature, "The Lost Highway" by sculptor David Malcolm Rose. Since its inception, Taylor’s Contemporanea Fine Arts has been a part of Gallery Walk.

Linda Palmer’s Gallery, located at 800 B Central Avenue will feature champagne, chocolate, and exciting new work by gallery artists: Ellen Alderson, Doyle Young, and Linda Palmer during the Gallery Walk anniversary celebration. Alderson has had her watercolors and pastels accepted in the Delta Exhibition, 4th Annual Arts in the Air Professional Art Exhibit, the Mustard Tree Arts Festival and LSU’s International Exhibition on Animals in Art, all in 2009! Young continues his highly collected watercolor paintings from his “Generations of the South” series, inspired from his extensive travels throughout the Delta regions of Arkansas, Mississippi, and Louisiana. Palmer presents her “Boxed Tulips,” oil paintings from Garvan Woodland Gardens, while she also continues her work on the Champion Trees of Arkansas. Since 1992, Palmer has been an active participant in the arts on Central Avenue. Her collection of the history of the arts in Hot Springs will be showcased at her gallery during the celebration.

Gallery Central, located at 800 Central Avenue, will feature the colorful art glass creations of James Hayes, along with work by nearly 40 other artists creating in a variety of mediums from oil, acrylic, pastel, and watercolor paintings, to wood, clay, and steel sculpture.

Justus Fine Art Gallery, located at 827 A Central Avenue, will be celebrating its fifth anniversary along with the 20th anniversary of Gallery Walk on August 7. “I opened my own gallery in downtown Hot Springs five years ago after having participated as an artist for many years prior. Hot Springs is such a special place for the arts and the monthly Gallery Walk has been such a positive event to keep the artists and community involved and engaged,” stated Dolores Justus.

Featured artists for the celebration will include: Michael Ashley, Kari Albright, Robin Hazard-Bishop, Elizabeth Borne’, Cynthia Bowers, Hugh Dunnahoe, Mike Elsass, Robert Frank, Steve Griffith, Dolores Justus, Rebecca Thompson, and others. Refreshments will be served.

The newest gallery on the Walk is Gallery 726, located at 726 Central Avenue. The co-owners, Shirley Anderson, Barbara Seibel, Sue Shields, and Caryl Joy Young, who are all working artists, will provide a continuous painting demonstration from 5 pm to 9 pm. The gallery also features a fine selection of watercolor, oil, pastel, and acrylic paintings, along with pottery, glass art, turned wood, and handmade jewelry from 13 local and regional artists.

Hot Springs Fine Arts Center, located at 610 Central Avenue, will feature the distinctive floral paintings of Karlyn Holloway during the 20th anniversary celebration. Her technique and style is undoubtedly unique and sometimes void of nature’s representational colors. Some of her most dramatic botanical paintings are of flowers painted in duotones, only browns and blacks. They force the viewer to see beyond the color of the flower and study the linear quality in its petals and leaves. Holloway will also be in attendance to discuss her work during the opening.

Riciano Art Gallery, owned by international artist, Riciano, will be celebrating its Grand Opening during the August Gallery Walk. Over 150 pieces of art by local, national, and international artists including paintings, drawings, sculptures, and black and white photography will be featured. Riciano Art Gallery is located at 833 Central Avenue.

Other participating galleries will include:

Alison Parsons Gallery - 802 Central Avenue

American Art Gallery - 724 Central Avenue

Blue Moon Gallery - 718 Central Avenue

Crystal Springs Gallery - 620 Central Avenue

Attraction Central Gallery - 264 Central Avenue

Xu International - 610 Central Avenue

Hot Springs Mountain Tower Provides Breathtaking Setting For Intimate Weddings

Situated atop Hot Springs Mountain 1,256 feet above sea level, Hot Springs Mountain Tower offers a unique wedding location for parties of 200 or less. The ceremonies take place in the enclosed observation deck at the top of the tower. With a backdrop of 140 miles of beautiful Arkansas countryside, there is no need for decorations.

Tower weddings are typically done in the fall and spring due to the Mountain Tower hours of operation. During theses seasons, couples have the option of renting out the tower and hosting a private ceremony for larger groups. However, weddings can be held during the summer. “In the fall and spring we see the most weddings because the tower is available to rent between 5 and 10 p.m.” explains Huff. “For summer ceremonies, we prefer to keep the wedding parties under 10 people.”

During the summer the mountain tower opens at 9 a.m. and closes at 9 p.m. through mid-August. Admission is $7 for adults (12 and older), $6 for senior citizens (55 and older), $4 for children (5 to 11) and free for children 4 and under. To receive a dollar off admission, please visit hotsprings.org/coupon for a printable coupon. For more information about wedding ceremonies at the Hot Springs Mountain Tower, contact Rose Mary Huff, at (501) 623-6035.

Hot Springs Mountain Tower Provides Inexpensive Family Fun With an Educational Twist and Is Now Open Longer Hours

Hot Springs Mountain Tower is just minutes from the excitement of downtown Hot Springs, and multimedia exhibits provide fun, educational facts. An elevator ride up to the 360-degree enclosed observation deck will give you access to 70-mile views in every direction. When you’re not gazing out over beautiful Hot Springs National Park, a visit to the historical exhibit contained in the tower will let you learn about the construction of Oaklawn Park race track, Babe Ruth’s visits to Hot Springs or the city’s colorful gambling era.

During the summer the Mountain Tower opens at 9 a.m. and closes at 9 p.m. through mid-August. Admission is $7 for adults (12 and older), $6 for senior citizens (55 and older), $4 for children (5 to 11) and free for children 4 and under.

To receive a dollar off admission, please visit hotsprings.org/coupon for a printable coupon.

LITTLE ROCK

What to See & Do

Bass Pro Shops Opens in Little Rock

Bass Pro Shops, America’s most popular outdoor store, is now part of the new 169-acre Gateway Town Center development in Little Rock which includes an outlet mall, according to developer Tommy Hodges. The location off Interstate 30 and Interstate 430 is the most highly traveled high profile intersection in the state. The store will attract tourists and travelers with its convenient location and will initially generate at least 250 jobs.

More than just a fishing and hunting store, Bass Pro Shops will also offer equipment and clothing for hiking, backpacking, wildlife viewing, camping, outdoor cooking and more. A gift and nature center will also serve up a wide variety of outdoor-related items from lamps and dishes to bird feeders and furniture.

The Little Rock Bass Pro Shops Outdoor World will feature the much- acclaimed Uncle Buck’s Fishbowl and Grill. This nautical-themed entity located within the store, features a truly unique atmosphere and design geared for family fun and dining. Twelve lanes will offer customers the chance to bowl ‘in the ocean. Casual family dining is available in the Grill where customers may select from a menu featuring a variety of appetizers, sandwiches, salads and burgers.

Bass Pro Shops’ unique exterior and interior motifs have branded them as visually appealing, high quality outdoor stores. The outdoors feel is brought indoors through massive log and rock work, large indoor aquariums and water features stocked with native fish species as well as an extensive collection of museum quality fish and wildlife mounts. Historic photos and exhibits will pay tribute to Arkansas’s great outdoor heritage.

For more information regarding Bass Pro Shops® store locations, products or special events, please visit www.basspro.com. To request a free catalog, call 1-800-BASS PRO. Follow on Facebook at www.facebook.com/bassproshops.

William J. Clinton Presidential Center and Park - and Much, Much More

Although the William J. Clinton Presidential Center and Park is well worth visiting, there's much more to see and do in Little Rock, the state capital. Outdoor enthusiasts will love the public parks, zoo, public and private golf courses, and the numerous hiking and biking trails. Sports persons will enjoy the professional basketball, football, NCAA Sun Belt Conference competition, and Ray Winder Field, home to the Arkansas Travelers AA baseball team. History buffs can check out the Old State House Museum, the Historic Arkansas Museum, the Arkansas Arts Center, and many more museums and historical landmarks. If music is your love, check out the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra, the Arkansas Repertory Theatre, Ballet Arkansas and the Arkansas Arts Center.

For more information, contact the Little Rock Convention & Visitors Bureau, Statehouse Plaza, P.O. Box 3232, Little Rock, Arkansas 72203; 501-376-4781, or check wet site www.littlerock.com.  


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